Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Daze edition

Maybe you’re celebrating the fifth night of Hanukkah, or maybe it’s Boxing Day, or maybe you’re observing the first day of Kwanzaa, or maybe it’s just another Thursday.
Regardless, the only holidays Statehouse Action observes are stuff like the first day of session, or crossover, or sine die.
It’s super tough to find cards for those
But no one gets those days off, and the next ones are in 2020 anyway, so here we are. Last Statehouse Action of the year.
(Of the decade, actually.)

And 2020 is going to bring quite a lot of said Action.

Yes, there’s a presidential election, and that’s Very Important, but this November is Democrats’ last chance to break gerrymandered GOP majorities in key states before legislatures (most of them, anyway) redraw congressional and legislative districts in 2021.
Eleven months is basically a political lifetime, so there’s no telling what might happen between now and Nov. 3, but Democrats nationwide appear likely to find themselves in a better position for the upcoming round of redistricting than they were for the last one.
… but that’s really not saying much.
(I’d make a joke about “Memory” here but I don’t think I’m allowed to now because of the Cats movie): After the 2010 elections, Republicans held majorities in 57 out of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, Democrats held majorities in just 39, and two chambers were tied.

    • Democrats, on the other hand, controlled the drawing of just 44 congressional districts.
So, with just one more election in almost every state legislature (Virginia, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maryland, and Alabama have no legislative general elections in 2020, and the Michigan state Senate isn’t up) before Redistmageddon 2.0, where do Democrats stand in terms of majority control of statehouses?

  • After the 2019 elections, Democrats hold majorities in 40 chambers (including the Alaska House, which is a … unique situation), Republicans control 58 (Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is ostensibly nonpartisan, which is why this only adds up to 98 legislative chambers).

      • This is an improvement over the 44% the GOP completely controlled in 2011, but it’s not a situation Democrats are exactly content with.
      • Oh, also these numbers are based on current apportionment of congressional seats among the states, which will most definitely change after next year’s Census results are accounted for.
  • Democrats’ best chance to knock that GOP seat percentage down next fall is in Texas, where Democrats need to pick up nine seats to flip the state House and end GOP trifecta control there.

Well, there’s plenty of time to talk Redistmageddon (yes, I’m making this a thing, apologies in advance) as 2020 gets under way.
In the meantime, the final Statehouse Action of 2019 seems like a good place to talk about one of the most important (in my extremely not humble opinion) stories of the year.
Democracy lol: In 2018, voters didn’t just deliver six new state legislative majorities to Democrats. Americans went to the ballot box in over half a dozen states last year to approve progressive policies that didn’t stand a chance in those states’ (mostly) GOP-gerrymandered statehouses.
  • Those ballot measures included:
    • Re-enfranchisement of voters who had been convicted of felonies (Florida)
    • Medicaid expansion (Utah, Idaho)
    • Minimum wage increase (Arkansas)
    • Medical marijuana legalization (Utah)
    • Redistricting reform (Utah, Missouri, Michigan)
  • But in every single one of these states, the GOP-controlled legislature took swift action this year to not only effectively nullify the results of many of these elections, but also to change the rules so that placing future such measures on the ballot will be MUCH harder.
    • Republicans in Michigan not only passed a law in last year’s lame duck session that undermined a voter-approved ballot measure establishing same-day voter registration, but they also eviscerated the ballot initiative process itself by effectively gerrymandering it:
      • A new law requires that no more than 15% of signatures to place a measure on the ballot can come from any one of the state’s 14 congressional districts—that is, one of the congressional districts gerrymandered to benefit the GOP (undermining the likelihood of progressive measures getting the needed signatures to appear on the statewide ballot).
  • In Utah, the GOP-controlled legislature just basically repealed voter-approved Medicaid expansion and legalization of medical marijuana.
    • Republicans also passed a series of tweaks to the referendum process that create new hurdles for getting future such measures on the ballot.
  • Florida’s GOP governor and legislature effectively imposed a poll tax to hamstring the voter-approved restoration of voting rights to residents who’d been convicted of felonies.
    • The essentially ex post facto bill requiring Floridians to have paid all associated court fines and fees could deny the vote to up to 1.1 million—never mind that 65% of the state’s voters approved the 2018’s landmark ballot measure to re-enfranchise residents who’d been convicted of felonies.
      • But Sunshine State conservatives aren’t stopping there.
        • There’s a movement afoot to raise the already incredibly high 60% threshold for passing constitutional amendments via ballot measure to two-thirds (66.67%, specifically) of the vote.
        • Another measure that’s closer to making the ballot next year: requiring voters to pass constitutional amendments with at least 60% of the vote in two general elections (instead of one, as is the current requirement). 
          • Republicans have already enacted a new law that imposes restrictions on how workers hired to gather signatures to place proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot are paid.
  • In Missouri, where Republicans unexpectedly failed this year—but probably won’t next year—to gut the redistricting reform measure approved in 2018 by over 62% of voters, the GOP is also working to undermine the ballot initiative process more generally.
    • Republican lawmakers have filed bills for next year’s session that would
      • Nearly double the current signature requirement from voters in each congressional district,
      • Impose new fees on the signature gathering process, and
      • Would (a la Florida) require citizen-proposed constitutional amendments to be approved by two-thirds of voters (currently, a simple majority is required).
Oh, and while we’re talking about Missouri, here’s one for the THESE. PEOPLE. MAKE. LAWS. file:
As one does
Speaking of truly awful politicians … I mean, Mike Moon is bad, but at least he’s not, like, a domestic terrorist.
Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, on the other hand … well, according to an investigation commissioned by the state House, very much is.
  • The 108-page report found that Shea “planned, engaged in and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States Government in three states outside of Washington over a three-year period.”
    • If you’re wondering, those armed conflicts were the 2016 armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, an armed standoff in 2014 in Nevada, and an armed conflict in Idaho in 2015.
  • Washington House GOP leadership immediately called on Shea to resign and suspended him from the Republican caucus.
  • His fellow lawmakers are not, as yet, prepared to expel him from the legislature.
    • Washington’s constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote for expulsion—meaning Democrats need nine Republicans to join them in voting to boot Shea.
  • This isn’t exactly Shea’s first brush with extremist notoriety. He’s actually a well-established right-wing militant extremist.
Make an offer of Peace before declaring war.
i. Not a negotiation or compromise of righteousness.
ii. Must surrender on terms of justice and righteousness:
1. Stop all abortions;
2. No same-sex marriage;
3. No idolatry or occultism;
4. No communism; and
5. Must obey Biblical law.
iii. If they yield – must pay share of work or taxes.
iv. If they do not yield – kill all males.
  • Shea also has used his platform as a state legislator (he was first elected in 2008) to advocate for the establishment of a 51st state out of the eastern half of Washington called “Liberty.”
    • Anyway, Shea’s general scariness isn’t exactly news, but this report brings an urgency to his well-known extremism.
    • Smart money’s on him not resigning, expulsion seems possible but is a stretch at present, but he’s up for election next fall and faces a primary opponent in the meantime, so maybe his district’s voters decide they’ve had enough of him and show him the door (the 4th Legislative District went for Trump 56-35, by the by).
Speaking of truly awful politicians, part 2:  If you’re worried that the awful pardons of former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, discussed in this space last week, might go unaddressed, well, there’s some promising news on that front.
Read the rest of this week's edition here.
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